Our final submission for First Impressions this month comes from Blake Haysel. This is the first page of her YA Paranormal Romance, PARADOX.
Sleepy Hollow, Say It Proudly!
My high school’s slogan was printed at the top of the bulletin board I found myself examining in the empty hallway. It was the middle of July. The summertime and I was in school. Voluntarily.
Sleepy Hollow High School is located near the East bank of the Hudson River, with a total of eight-hundred fifty students. The entrance of the school is right along Route 9, like most other important places in town. The large brick and granite sign that reads Sleepy Hollow High School Home of the Horsemen makes sure you can’t miss it. Once you enter the front parking lot you can see and appreciate the high school’s structure. The outside, with its deep warm brown shaded bricks, makes the school appear as if it was erected only a few years ago. The inside is brightly lit, the walls are painted a soft gray – which I guess was in effort to keep rowdy teenagers as calm as possible — and the floors are freshly buffed and waxed industrial tiles.
I was waiting for my mother, Bianca, to finish her discussion with the assistant principal. It was about allowing me to enter the summer bridge program to earn extra credits for college; I was determined to graduate a year early. My schedule this year was already going to be filled with more classes than any sane student would ask for. So naturally there was resistance from my mother along with my guidance counselor, Ms. Tolkin, but I didn’t budge. After realizing that they didn’t have a choice but to let me take the extra classes they surrendered. “Too stubborn for your own good,” my mother had said, as she always did when there was no changing my mind.
“Thanks again,” I heard a voice call out as the person attached to it exited the secretarial office.
That is when I first see Him. My eyes eat up the body that lies underneath His burgundy Nike T-shirt and beige shorts. I was acutely aware of the way His tight T-shirt showed off His tan and tall, athletic physique enhanced by his obscenely hot broad rounded shoulders. His black hair is cut short and His brown eyes are complimented by a long rounded nose and Orlando Bloom lips. The strength and long length of his fingers quickened my pulse as I pictured them running down my bare back. This guy had All-American quarterback down to a T.
I love the idea of Sleepy Hollow as the setting for a paranormal romance! Lots of potential there, and the school slogan is delightful.
The first thing that needs addressing is verb tense, since the paragraphs switch between present and past tense. The author should pick the one that best serves the story. Present tense is popular with first person POV these days, but if the writer is more comfortable with past tense, that works too.
Secondly, I suggest trimming the description of the school down to the best two sentences to keep it brief and move the focus to the MC faster. Also, if the narrator was eavesdroppingon the meeting between her mother and the assistant principal, some of the MC’s back story could be conveyed through their dialogue. Having the MC listen to them discuss her class schedule and the summer bridge program might be preferable to explaining it through exposition. Just be careful to avoid the “As you know, Bob …” scenario where the principal and the mother tell each other things they both already know. And keep it brief, too. If necessary, some explanations can wait for later.
Finally, I’m not sure if the boy gets a capital letter for He and Him because he’s divinely hot – or because he’s really divine! (This IS a paranormal romance, after all.) Just be careful not to overdo it, because it can distract the readers and pull them from the story. Maybe Blake could capitalize that first Him and leave the rest of the pronouns alone?
Thank you, Blake, for sharing your first page with us! Readers can find Blake at her blog, The Tattered Page, and don’t forget to visit Marcy at Mainewords for her critique of the same page.
Dianne covered all my feedback! Definitely cut the description of the high school–I wouldn’t even do 2 sentences. Instead, I’d incorporate description of setting into other parts of the narrative to keep the pace up. You only have so long to hook the reader, so don’t waste it on description of a pretty much ordinary-looking place. You can use the words and space you gain by deleting the description to give us a clearer sense of the character and her situation.
The tense switching was also problematic, so decide which you want and be very careful to stick to it. And I, too, was distracted by the capitalization of “Him” and the other masculine pronouns. To many, many people, that capitalization is reserved for references to God, so although we can get over that association, it’s distracting as we try.
In short–pay attention to Dianne’s feedback; she knows what she’s talking about! Best of luck with this!
Just checking the comment box, since one of my readers reported a problem with it. We’ll see if this goes through …
I love the idea of Sleepy Hollow as the setting, too.
I agree with Dianne and Sarah. With those tweaks, I think this will a great start.
Oh, and I love the title!
Awesome critique, Dianne! I left my suggestions over on Marcy’s site!!! Best of luck with this, Blake.
Dianne nailed what I was going to say. Definitely trim back on the description of the school. Give us the barest of details, especially on the first page.
Great job, ladies!
Everybody else pretty well covered the issues about changes in verb tense and the description of the school, so I’ll let that go, other than to say I agree with them. Couple minor things: “I found myself examining…” It always strikes me as a bit awkward when a character “finds” herself doing something, as if she’s been temporarily “lost” and is surprised to find herself doing whatever it is she’s doing. “As if it was erected” should read “were.” With “if”, always use “were.” (As in “If I Were a Rich Man…”) Finally, the young lady’s reaction to the hunk… wow! Is that really how girls think these days? I was kinda boy crazy as a teenager, but my thoughts were a lot more tame. (sigh) Maybe I’m just old. Anyhow, I like this piece. I especially like the idea of using “Sleepy Hollow” and the school team name of “The Horsemen.” Very clever. Good writing, and yes, I would continue reading.
Really good comments from Dianne about pacing. Very interested concept too. I would totally keep reading. 🙂
Comment box working fine now! It may have been my PC!!! I love your ability to crtitique! You make some very good points. Tense can be quite a difficult thing to deal with consistently. The excerpt sounds like it could be really good story!
Sleepy Hollow High…I wonder if you could work in some more immediate reference to something spooky. Aside from that, agreed completely with Diane’s comments.
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Thanks, everyone!!! Especially Dianne for posting the first page of Paradox on her blog and for having First Impressions for those with dreams of writing.
I really appreciate the feedback!
I’ve left a wee critique on Marcy’s blog, so I won;t repeat myself here.
I’m using this post to let you know I’ve put WE HEAR THE DEAD into the Amazon book slideshow on my blog. I look forward to adding all your others when they come out! 🙂
So much great feedback already, I have nothing to add except thank you for being brave and sharing your story!
Great suggestions, Dianne. And I love the setting, too. What a great idea!
I was going to comment, but it looks like everything was said. Good luck with your MS-1st pages are hard to get right. Great premise!
I think it’s a great start, taking in account Dianne’s comments. I’d keep reading it.